What was the purpose of the January 2003 dossier and how accurate was it?

On 3O January 2003 the government published a new dossier, entitled “Iraq – Its Infrastructure Of Concealment, Deception And Intimidation”. This document became controversial almost immediately when it was revealed that a large part of it was plagiarised from an academic article. However, the document also purported to put into the public domain intelligence-based information about the Iraqi regime’s attempts to obstruct UN weapons inspectors. The government has maintained that this was a valid exercise and that the intelligence-based information was accurate, although this has never been tested.

The document was published at a time when the results of UN weapons inspections were, as the Butler inquiry commented, “generally negative” and government papers included “expressions of concern about the impact on public and international opinion of the lack of strong evidence of Iraqi violation of its disarmament obligations.”

The Inquiry will need to look at the the dossier’s origins, the government’s motivation for publishing it and the reliability of its claims.

The dossier’s origins and purpose

It is known that the dossier was produced by the Coalition Information Centre (CIC) at the request of Alastair Campbell.

Government witnesses told the Foreign Affairs Committee in 2003 that the dossier was commissioned when intelligence was received in January of that year on the Iraqi regime’s plans to obstruct UN inspectors. However, there is evidence showing that the dossier was commissioned significantly earlier and it is also clear that the government had previously received a great deal of intelligence on alleged Iraqi deception and concealment. This raises the question of why the government decided in January 2003 to publish the dossier.

September 2002

There is significant evidence that the January 2003 dossier was commissioned in September 2002 by Alastair Campbell, during the drafting of the September 2002 dossier on Iraq’s wmd. In a memorandum to JIC chairman John Scarlett dated 17 September Campbell said: “In light of the last 24 hours, I think we should make more of the point about current concealment plans.” This was a reference to the Iraqi regime’s agreement to the return of UN inspectors. In his published diary for that date, Campbell wrote: “I commissioned the CIC to do a paper on his past dicking about.”

Campbell’s observation reflects the inclusion in the September dossier of intelligence-based claims that the Iraqi regime was planning to hide its wmd programmes from future UN inspections.

To what extent was the dossier based on intelligence?

It has been acknowledged that a significant part of the dossier (the majority of Part 2) was plagiarised from a September 2002 article by Ibrahim al-Marashi. Part 1 of the document, which purports to describe the Iraqi regime’s current obstruction and concealment techniques, is said to be based on intelligence but it is by no means clear which assertions are based on intelligence and which are propaganda.

How accurate was the dossier?

In a memorandum to the FAC in June 2003, Dr Glen Rangwala pointed out that a number of the dossier’s claims about current Iraqi obstruction had been denied by Hans Blix, who was leading the inspections.

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